Most respectable online marketing companies will be well versed in the above reaction. Reputable online marketing companies charge anything from £3000/month (~$4600) all the way to £7k/month. Some even higher. Based on an hourly rate of approx. £60 ($100) this equates to a minimum of 50 hours dedicated to your project. So that initial reaction, although sigh inducing amongst those in the know, is perfectly normal. But how justified is it?
Well, that wholly depends on what your definition of SEO or Online marketing is exactly.
Although it is true that there is no such thing as effective cheap SEO, it is just as true that you can get cheap SEO at a high price. Following that thought process and following our recent study showing that 52% of SEO companies still offer dodgy link building techniques, it’s not surprising that some see the option of an in house SEO expert as attractive.
So, before we even start analysing this further, I think it’s worth defining what SEO/Online marketing really means to us here at Reboot. For that purpose, I’m going to separate the two.
SEO Person: A person with some varying degree of technical and theoretical understanding on how search engines behave and works. This person will typically be able to carry out audits on a website and discover technical issues that may concern areas such as Meta tags, content duplication, website structure and internal linking. This person also displays clear understanding on what it takes to rank a website and what the inherent dangers are with differing tactics used to achieve this.
Online Marketing: The process of marketing a website in such a way so as to make the website and its content as attractive as possible for other online publications in the hope that they will associate themselves with said website via several methods most important of which is via linking to said website.
Now, you will notice that under SEO person definition, we intentionally said “displays clear understanding of what it takes to rank”. What it does not say is that this person is able, on his/her own, rank a competitive website without using techniques that are against Google guidelines. Why? Well its simple. The clue is in the title of the second definition. “Online Marketing”. Note it does not say “Online Marketing Person”. That is because, these days, competitive ranking increasingly demands more than one person to accomplish a successful campaign.
Stages of a Successful Online Campaign:
Idea Generation – This is most effectively done amongst a group of people. A group of people who get on with each other, are at ease and happy to shout out ideas without fear of rejection. Have you ever tried to do this with just one person? Yes, they will have the odd good idea but generating 5 or 6 per session is impossible if you are an SEO person on your own.
Research – The second, very important stage is always done best in a group. Each person takes an angle on the idea and goes off to research it. Again, incredibly difficult to do when you are on your own. A group is able to egg and encourage each other whilst being able to munch over obstacles and come to a working solution.
Content – This can be done individually but having multiple personalities in your content team helps with keeping the content fresh, original and vibrant while giving you the option of directing individual writing style or passion to the best fitting requirement.
Graphic design – Another crucial skill. Graphic design can bring an edge to your stories, breaking it up into manageable sizes while making the whole piece far more attractive and easy on the eye. Images, graphics, infographics, videos all help and are all crucial.
Outreach – Anyone that has ever tried outreach would vouch that it’s not the most exciting job in the world. It involves using specialist skills learnt and honed over years of experience. It’s a ‘knack’ which is easier to achieve and maintain when working in groups.
Social Media – Goes without saying really. Social media is a skill in itself. It’s not enough simply knowing how to tweet or post on facebook. Just because you may have the ability to manage your own personal account, does not mean that you are able to maintain several client account to a level that would bring in relevant, real, engaging followers and grow your reach substantially. Reach that can then be included as one of your outreach weapons.
So, for a company to take on a full time SEO person in-house, the job spec should include all of the above skills.
Now, how many people do you know who can offer all of the above? If you are lucky, you may just be able to get away with a team of 3. A writer can conceivably do the research, but you won’t find many writers that are also good graphic designers so now you need a graphic designer and a writer. The problem is that you still need someone who understands SEO. Not many writers or graphic designers are also SEO experts. (And there is nothing more dangerous than an SEO person who is not an expert)
Assuming you can get away with 3 people, and that is a stretch in itself, you will need to pay 3 wages. So, even if you are paying £15k each (which, let’s face it is not going to get you experts by anyone’s definition) you are already paying £45,000 every year. For that amount, if you choose your online marketing company carefully, you can get a whole team of experts who have been doing this for years. Who are real experts and have the backing and professionalism that is so necessary in this industry today.
Other negatives of having an in-house SEO person which people rarely think about are the inherit headaches that comes with employing full time staff such as pensions, sick pay, holiday allowances, equipment, subscriptions, software, payroll, tax, NI, HR issues, health & safety, employment insurance and the list goes on and on. All of which will invariably distract you from your own core responsibilities and make your job increasingly feel more like a babysitting role.
Freelancing option? A total waste of time. Freelancers are a great way of complementing your current resources but if you are hoping on building a whole team using freelancers for crucial, time sensitive projects, well, you are in for a shock. The problems occur due to the fact that you have no direct control over them. They tend to all start well, but after a while, they start taking longer and longer to answer your queries or get jobs completed. This in turn starts to hold all of our other freelancers back and causes a massive catch 22 situation where the only thing that is getting accomplished is your sanity. Differing time zones, varied level of skills, trust issues, security, language barriers and commitment are all serious issues which need to be considered. This is not to say that there are some amazingly reliable, trustworthy and skilful Freelancers. There are. We use 3 of them. But we use them in addition and in support of the main team rather than a crucial cog in the machinery. In other words, if our freelancers suddenly disappear on a 6 month trekking tripto Nepal with no prior warning or agreement, it won’t have any damaging effect on our business model.
Making the right choice of online marketing company obviously will have a bearing on the results. Assuming you have asked the right questions and chosen a good company, and there are many out there despite what some people may lead you to believe, you simply cannot compare the effectiveness of an online marketing campaign carried out by a dedicated, professional and experienced SEO company to that of a lone SEO expert.